I don’t sit much. I am standing right now as I type at our counter-height kitchen table. I’m at my best and most comfortable when I’m in motion, but usually I need some caution signs around me because I’m wielding some sharp, high-powered tool.
I am not a typical woman. I build things. I operate power tools every day. I use hand tools every day. I handle very, very sharp objects every day. I move rough cut wooden boards every day. I lift heavy objects more than I should every day. There are plenty of opportunities for bumps, scrapes, cuts, splinters, bruises, punctures, and pinches.
A while back I wrote about the warning sign that now comes with my left arm. With ten lymph nodes removed there are less pathways for fluid to drain which means when I injure myself there’s a greater risk of swelling (lymphedema). I’m not ever supposed to injure my left arm. Not ever. Not good for someone like me.
Last week I scraped my left index finger with a blunt star-shaped screw bit while I was driving a screw into drywall. It was a very minor injury, but I was alarmed to see that for the next four days my finger was extremely red and unusually swollen. Amelia fretted about the threat of infection. I soaked it in salt water every day and used a prescription anti-bacterial cream. A week later the swelling was down, but it was still bright red and wasn’t even close to healed. That’s because I am still neutropenic from the toxic effects of the chemotherapy. Right now I have zero neutrophils, which are a type of blood cell you need to heal wounds and fight off infection.
I knew lymphedema and poor healing were possibilities, but this was a double whammy and another step into the new normal. Every time some new bad thing happens, I’m surprised. I have to somehow not get even a small scrape right now, not just on my left arm, but my whole body. Neutropenia might be temporary, but lymphedema is a life-long risk.
Not working is not an option for me right now – for so many reasons. But I have to figure out how to reduce my risk of injury. My first step will be trying to find a pair of women’s tight-fitting gloves that allow for dexterity and range of motion while protecting my hands. Then maybe some lightweight, high tech body armor. I wonder if they come with packs….